Events

Yoyo Wallet eyeing now-smartphone-savvy Japan market

This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.

Image credit: Yoyo Wallet

Yoyo Wallet, Europe’s fastest-growing mobile wallet provider, is mulling expansion worldwide but is in particular focused on the Asia-Pacific region, with Japan as a cornerstone. The four-year old fintech outfit, based out of London, had just two months ago conducted its Series B fund run. Thus today Yoyo Wallet is well-funded enough to be able to find strong partners in Asia, not to mention that it could recently open a pilot base in Singapore. In addition, the startup has also been testing out the waters through a (still stealth-ish) New York office, so in view of fathoming the situation overseas, Yoyo Wallet’s Co-Founder and CEO Alain Falys was in Tokyo this week for the Rakuten FinTech Conference 2017; it’s worth noting that he visited Japan last year as well.

Image credit: Yoyo Wallet

Regarding the fintech conference, not only the serial entrepreneur M. Falys but also UK finance provider PremFina‘s CEO Bundeep Singh Rangar (a McGill and a Columbia School of Journalism graduate who has garnered much media attention) and blockchain-centered startup Wyre Co-Founder and CEO Michael Dunworth (an erstwhile Sydneysider fund transfers expert who is now a San Francisco entrepreneur) gathered together to discuss “Innovation in FinTech” on September 27th at the Hotel New Otani venue. The conference also had participants like Professor Emeritus Yukio Noguchi of Hitotsubashi University [this reporter’s former fellow contributor to “BP Navigator” magazine], speaking on blockchain and the digital economy, plus other eminent persons.

Image credit: Yoyo Wallet

Returning to Yoyo Wallet, according to its CEO – who had in the past created a global electronic invoice company OB10 (now known as Tungsten Network) – it is not another “mobile wallet” app for the smartphone user but a tool for the retailer whose ePOS can become a powerful business generator when it takes advantage of the simple, quick and attractive “rail” set for them by the Yoyo Wallet platform. In a nutshell, the mobile app lets users gain “electronic point card” benefits while also letting the retailers know what kind of preferences the consumers have upon shopping. The increased incentives availed have been shown to motivate consumers into using Yoyo Wallet even more, as was borne out by the fact that the Europe-based Caffe Nero chain of 650 stores already having turned 5% of its total payment volume onto Yoyo Wallet, barely 3 months from launch.

Image credit: Yoyo Wallet

The Yoyo Wallet CEO sees their loyalty-driven set-up altering Japanese “cash-preferred” inclination which, like German buying behavior, could be changed into a digital money-oriented one where even tax invoices can be handled. Although its business in UK was led by the university sector wherein students were the early adopters, the difference in the Japanese student canteen system and suchlike will likely mean a targeting of the retail sector for Japan. A 20% share of the mobile payment market will be aimed for once the startup gains appropriate local entities as partners. Since queries as to security and other concerns were clearly addressed by CEO Falys, I would like to wish him and his company “Bonne Chance!” in breaking into the Japanese market.

First-ever Startupbootcamp Fintech accelerator demo tour winds up in Tokyo

This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.

Steven Tong, Managing Director of Startupbootcamp FinTech

The Fintech Accelerator program run by Startupbootcamp, based in Singapore and lasting three months long, held its first ever Demo Tour in Asia. Commencing with its home base in Singapore on July 5th, the 10-day “Odyssey” of 11 participants from seven countries entailed visits to Chengdu and Hong Kong in China before winding up on July 14th in Tokyo, Japan (albeit on the final day only eight startups gave pitches, three firms of AIM from Korea, Fugle from Taiwan and Smartfolios from Russia being absent). In Tokyo, the Demo Tour was hosted by Finolab, with support from local partners.

Startupbootcamp is the accelerator arm of venturebuilder/design studio/consultancy Rainmaking, which has 11 offices on three continents. In Asia they seek to promote entrepreneurial problem solving within corporate teams across multiple industries. The Tokyo visit was opened by a Startupbootcamp Asia representative who outlined the endeavor and paved the way for the startups that had made it to Japan, with the day being ended by the Startupbootcamp FinTech Program Director summing up the tour.

See also:

An overview of the pitches by the eight are as follows:

CherryPay (Singapore)

Singapore’s CherryPay presented their international Peer-to-Peer money transfer matching platform, which has the backing of Amazon Web Services as well as Cisco Systems. Chief Marketing Officer Kate Wu said her company provides reasonable rates and affordable service fees in addition to quick receipt of funds via local bank accounts through leveraging of its transborder network.

Smallticket (Korea)

Another businesswoman, who stood out in an attention-grabbing garb emblazoned with her company logo, was Julie Kim Jung Eun, Founder and the top officer at Smallticket of Korea. This online social insurance broker outfit, which minimizes risks using Peer-to-Peer rewarding platform, underscored the merits for micro-segment groups that utilize their system.

Vesl (the Philippines)

An all-Filipina management team as represented by the lady in charge of product development spoke on behalf of Vesl. It was noted that trade credit insurance at bite size was being availed to SMEs and others such as farmers cooperatives hitherto ineligible to gain access to cheaper financing. The startup from the Philippines now has an agreement with a global insurance broker.

Morakot (Cambodia)

Speaking of the Philippines, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Sophorth Khuon, of Cambodia’s Morakot offering microfinance, unveiled his company’s expansion plan into the island nation in 2018, following this year’s entry into Myanmar. He highlighted the problems faced by emerging markets, which his startup seeks to address with a business model based on core banking.

Scalend (India)

Regarding solutions for difficult challenges as exemplified with dealing with Big Data, Scalend showcased its AI-backed data and insights discovery platform for financial services companies. Ravi Madhira, who is one of the two co-founders, talked about how he and his business partner had over forty years of collective experience in building internet scale systems.

Jumper.ai (India)

As for AI, Jumper.ai co-founder Yash Kotak of jumper.ai outlined their social media-use e-commerce enabler which realizes Instant Checkout among other things. The auto-engage sales based on jumper tech can be used on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, with planned adoption on other social media like Line in the near future.

Tixguru (Singapore)

Another Artificial Intelligence user, Singapore-based startup Tixguru, focuses on quantitative trading recommendations for financial institutions. Its robot advisor, according to Chief Operating Officer James Ong, is grounded in a decade-long experience in this business sector.

Smart Trade (Japan / China)

Smart Trade, with a base in both Japan and China, is also involved in “quant trading” although in this startup platform’s case the target market comprises individual investors. CEO@Japan and co-founder Tomoyuki Uchida highlighted their Algorithm Store and Algorithm Factory lines. The company CMO and co-founder Guangzhen Li is also known for being active in this arena.

Nomura’s Voyager accelerator Demo Day showcases collaboration with five startups

This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.

The Voyager accelerator program Demo Day was held on July 14th in Shibuya. Run by the Nomura group of companies under the auspices of Nomura Holdings, support from the Nomura side with an eye to producing synergy – in addition to outside private-sector mentors (like former Intel Japan chief Ikuo Nishioka) as well as advisors such as academics and field professionals helped five startups gain traction in their business.

The five firms presented their plans, as below:

Chikaku, which offers a service providing links for senior citizens to their relatives as exemplified by their grandchildren via video tech (“Mago” in Japanese, hence “Mago Channel” as the service name), tried out their productline at half a dozen Nomura Securities branches. Much positive feedback from the trial participants and the securities sales staff was gained. Chikaku hopes to expand their service further in cooperation with Nomura Securities.

Simulatio, a venture business born out of research at Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), unveiled its natural language-grounded “Logic & Arithmetic Network Database” (LAND). The startup aims to promote analysis and solution provision for the financial sector while improving the reliability of financial information for users. By collaborating with the Nomura group of companies, it looks to realize further enhancement of its services.

Giftee in conjunction with Nomura Securities Koshigaya (Saitama Prefecture) branch gave a trial run of its casual gift service “eGift” which focuses on the grandparents generation wishing to provide younger family members with small gifts. The Nomura group also stands to gain by making in-roads into the elder generation through jointly marketing the “eGift” services.

A10 Lab is offering the “MinChallenge” (meaning “Take on the challenge with everyone”) software which seeks to motivate those involved in various activities but prone to possibly dropping out. The startup hopes to improve people’s lifestyles so the general public will be motivated to be active in society. Research work on this endeavor was carried out jointly with Nomura Research Institute.

Nagoya University Medical School-spawned Prevent wishes to set up a health-oriented community where residents can lower insurance, medical and other social costs based on proper diet or training. Such communities are to be establish by working together with real estate developers such as Nomura Real Estate.

AI-based health diagnosis app for plants wins AgriTech startup competition in Tokyo

This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.

The Banana Dream teamImage credit: AG/SUM

From May 23rd to 25th at Toranomon Hills in Tokyo, a series of start-up pitches were given during Japan’s Agritech Summit (AG/SUM). The event was sponsored by the Japanese financial newspaper group Nikkei, and modeled after the American version which is replete with start-up participation.

It was the second AG/SUM confab held by the Japanese side following a February pitch preliminaries that saw a dozen teams selected to prepare for the Harvest finals in May…10 teams ended up pitching in May. Three AG/SUM accelerator participants also made their Green Pitch presentations.

AG/SUM Harvest in Tokyo, February 2017Image credit: “Tex” Pomeroy

Last year, Nikkei hosted Fintech Summit, in line with the mainstay business full of start-up activity in recent years. The news outfit will this year again organize the fintech event. In 2016 Nikkei had also backed Pioneers Asia, focused on the startup ecosystem in the Asian region.

Life Sciences session at Pioneers Asia 2016Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

Regarding agritech as a concept it covers not only agribusiness but entails applying technology and innovations to solve a variety of problems ranging from labor shortage due to the steep decline in farms, the global environment and food supply, among other pressing issues.

Automation for improved yield management, utilization of drones both apian and artificial, food safety and security, rural medicine — though as for veterinarians, Japan has a surplus of practitioners — these are fields in which biomedical and life sciences will be gaining in importance.

Banana Dream’s health diagnosis appImage credit: “Tex” Pomeroy

Regarding AG/SUM pitch competitions Harvest’s top winner, with a big monetary award from the Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, was GreenPlanet Biotech-led Team Banana Dream while the special award went to agriculture-use fintech start-up Plus A, which will be provided direct access to the pitch finals at Fintech Summit 2017 being held again by Nikkei in a challenge for the top award there.

The Banana Dream team has developed an AI-based health diagnosis technology for plants using images of the veins of a leaf based on a technique called “freeze-thaw awakening method”. Plus A proposes a new funding option for farmers to help their business expansion and optimization.

The Plus-A teamImage credit: AG/SUM

The Green Pitch presentation were given followed by Livin Farms, Plant Data and Vegetalia, the last outfit being led by Satoshi Koike, a well-known in the startup field. Additionally seminars and workshops as well as exhibits were held (container-based Freight Farms being a favorite for urban/weekend farmer candidates, for example) plus smaller conferences… business and press…at the mid-city venue.

The Plant Data teamImage credit: “Tex” Pomeroy

There was also an announcement made at AG/SUM of a joint endeavor by the City of Rikuzentakata (Mayor Futoshi Toba), Kyoto-based confectioner Salon de Royal (President Machiko Maeuchi) and the University of Tokyo’s Agriculture and Life Sciences Department as well as Institute of Industrial Science (efforts headed by Prof. Hiroyoshi Iwata, Assoc. Prof. Kazuo Oki, etc.) establishing a company and a pilot farm centered on pecan-nut production for revitalization of the rural region devastated by the March 2011 tsunami strike.

The Pecan team and their partnersImage credit: “Tex” Pomeroy